Sending your children to summer camp for the first time is challenging for nearly every parent, and for the parents of children with special needs it can be even more so. And yet, summer camp can be a great experience for children with special needs, helping them to make new friends while allowing them to explore sports, games, and other fun activities. As an added bonus, kids without special needs have the opportunity to befriend kids with special needs, as both expand their view of community. Here are the many benefits which help children with disabilities enjoy summer camp.
The Development of Social Skills
Social skills can be a challenge for kids of all ages and abilities, but camp is a great place for kids to enhance those skills. While camp is a learning environment similar to school, it tends to be more fun, engaging kids to join in activities and make new friends. Many camps have support staff trained to help special needs kids communicate, get involved, and explore new interests, even they are having difficulty. These staffers, sometimes known as aids or one-to-ones, are assigned to individual children and come alongside them to help when assistance is needed. Generally, these special staffers assist only when there are difficulties communicating, or meeting challenges during camp. Their goal is to allow special needs children have a great camp experience enjoying all camp has to offer making friends with other campers while allowing campers of all abilities to grow in community.
The Enhancement of Physical Fitness
For children, the physical and emotional benefits of experiencing the great outdoors are endless. Summer camp allows everyone, through special accommodation and activities, to participate in outdoor activities. Summer camps can teach kids to play team sports, to join in pool fun, and to explore the world through nature walks, and more while gaining the health benefits of an outdoor experience.
The Growth of Self-Esteem and Independence
Summer camp is a great place for kids of all abilities to gain a new measure of self-confidence and grow in independence. Many camps blend kids with and without special needs so every child has the opportunity to show off their knowledge and their abilities. As they do, camp works to close the gap that may have existed, kids grow in confidence as they gain independence, and friendships are created. Studies show, special needs kids who return to the same camp each summer, often progress to the point helpers and aids are no longer needed for a fun, enjoyable camp experience.
Choosing a Camp for Your Kids
Choosing a camp for your kids to attend requires some research. Here are some helpful tips to get you started. Begin by visiting the camps you are considering allowing enough time to make a positive decision. Ask the camp if they have staffers trained for special needs children. Inquire about their safety protocols. Do research on the camp’s reputation with the community. Take your child along and be sure they are comfortable in the setting and while there ask what the daily routine is like, including meals, rest, and bedtimes.
Once you make your decision on the best camp for your child, work toward preparing your child to have a great camp experience. Practice the tasks they’ll need to do independently at camp. Talk about camp frequently with your child and answer their questions positively to set the tone for camp. Discuss the camp experience, what they’ll need to bring along, and what should stay at home.
When camp arrives, share any concerns you may have with the camp staff so they can help your child have a great camp experience!